Aaron Ockenfels, just days away from graduating with a B.A. in Accounting from Ave Maria University, took a break from his studies for an interview that prompted him to reflect back on the last four years, particularly his experience of Hurricane Irma. The graduating senior who grew up on a farm near Wellman, Iowa, was one of five members of the Class of 2018 who were being profiled in the week leading up to graduation. These select five were each nominated for the President’s Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior of Ave Maria University in recognition of academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.
Although not an official member of any club or student organization, Aaron was still actively involved with life on campus and committed to serving the larger community. Every Wednesday he, along with a fellow AMU student, served as a sidewalk counselor outside of the abortion clinic in Naples. Sunday nights would see Aaron assisting with the high school youth ministry at the local parish. Aaron played baseball his junior year and earned Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete honors. He also performed often with his band, Tom MonaBAND & The Dominos (a playful nod to the University’s founder, Tom Monaghan, and the pizza business that made him his fortune). The student band took first place at the annual campus competition, Battle of the Bands, his sophomore and junior years. The other two years, they took second.
Working 12-hour shifts on campus security, Aaron Ockenfels witnessed the community pull together during Hurricane Irma.
Aaron was well-known more generally around campus. He could be seen almost anywhere, at any given time in his position as a campus security guard. It was through his position with security that Aaron had one of his most memorable and unique experiences at Ave Maria University: Hurricane Irma. “Coming from Iowa, where we have tornadoes, Irma was a step up in intensity,” Aaron says. “I worked security leading up to, during, and after Irma. I worked shifts 12 hours on, 12 hours off and stayed in the Student Union with CCSO [Collier County Sheriff’s Office] deputies, EMS, First Responders, and Firefighters.” For his efforts during Hurricane Irma, Aaron received the Meritorious Service Award from President Towey.
Aaron goes on to talk about the intensity of those days, how it brought everyone together and created a bond between everyone who lived through it. “Everyone had stories about Irma,” he explains, “whether they stayed and worked to prepare beforehand, cleaned up the aftermath, or if they traveled somewhere to avoid the hurricane.” Thinking back on his own experience of those days, Aaron was struck by how the entire community pulled together as a team, working toward the same goal “The part I was most impressed with during Irma was the sense of unity and purpose shared by everyone who stayed on campus and worked together,” Aaron shares. “Everyone came together to help out and nobody complained about doing bad jobs or the amount of work that needed to get done.”
Over the summer, Aaron has plans to continue working for his alma mater as a member of Campus Security while he pursues a job as a Customs and Border Protection Officer for the Department of Homeland Security. When asked how AMU contributed to his formation, Aaron says it challenged him, academically, spiritually, and socially. “It really helped me working with others and working in groups,” he says, “as well as personal responsibility for making sure deadlines are met and things are taken care of.“
Many thanks to Aaron as he continues to serve the campus community of Ave Maria University and congratulations on being named a President’s Award finalist. Best of luck navigating the adventure ahead!
“Personally, being at Ave Maria has given me hope and encouragement for life,” reflects Wisconsin-native John Zambo. “It has always been a major gift to be here, and I try to share the hope and joy that being at Ave Maria has given me with everybody else.”
John departs from AMU on May 5th alongside his fellow members of the Graduating Class of 2018. On April 22nd, John was announced as one of the five finalists for the President’s Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a graduating senior of Ave Maria University in recognition of academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.
During his time at AMU, John was in the Honors Program, a Mother Teresa Scholar, and involved with the AEI on Campus Executive Council. In terms of his campus involvement, he was a member of the Fishers of Men faith household, the Investment Club, and Students for Life. Academically, he is a five-time Dean’s List recipient–an impressive number for someone who suffered a severe traumatic brain injury during his college career.
The summer after John’s freshman year at AMU, he was in a car accident that caused his traumatic brain injury from which doctors said he would not survive. After a miraculous recovery, John returned to school the Fall of the following year. “For a long time after I suffered my traumatic brain injury, I had the feeling that the only reason that God kept me alive was to give His love and His mercy to everyone that I encountered,” he shares. “I felt that I was alive to give my life, which is a huge gift, back to everyone around me as a gift. I felt like that’s why He let me come back to Ave. So that’s what I try to do every day,” he goes on. “And Ave Maria is a great environment for me to be able to practice that.”
After a miraculous recovery, John Zambo is committed to living a life of service.
John is eager to devote his life in service to others. He expresses how his time at Ave Maria University, especially his involvement with the Mother Teresa Project, helped him practice the life of service that he desires to live, but also how, professionally speaking, AMU has helped him discover a career that allows him to use his talents to serve. John elected to earn a bachelor’s degree in Managerial Economics and Strategic Analysis because he loves exercising the skills that go along with it: critical analysis, logical reasoning and deduction, and strategic planning. But also, a career in finance affords John the opportunity to help others use their money well, and by doing so, become better persons. “I would love to be a financial planner from a Catholic perspective,” he explains, “so I can build relationships with people and help them use their money well to meet their goals and grow to become better people.”
John received an internship with Macke Financial Advisory Group, an opportunity which he credits to the resources available at AMU. “Career Services has helped me with my resume, job hunting, and interviewing,” he says. In the future, he hopes to land a starting job in the field of finance, and eventually, to become a financial planner. Until then, he continues to work hard, trust in God’s will, and live a life of serving others. “We will see what happens,” John states, “but I am just trying to do my best every day and I will see where God has me end up.”
Congratulations to John on his outstanding achievements at AMU over the last four years, and for earning yet another honor by being named a President’s Award finalist. We wish him the best of luck as he prepares for graduation!
“The most unique experience I had with AMU was volunteering in the Dominican Republic for 10 days at a children’s home,” recalls graduating senior Elizabeth Cox. “It was incredibly inspiring to witness the pure joy of each child, regardless of their poverty and background.” Going on, Elizabeth shares: “This mission trip motivated me to pursue medicine, knowing that I had the potential to make a difference in global health.”
Elizabeth will walk across the stage at Ave Maria University’s Commencement Exercises on May 5th to receive her diploma for a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry. She says she chose this major because she has a long-standing interest in the chemical processes that underlie human physiology. She chose AMU because of the unique education it affords. “I knew that I would have a chance to become a well-rounded student through the core curriculum,” Elizabeth explains. “I also found the small faculty-to-student ratio very appealing because I sincerely value relationships with my mentors and professors.”
Elizabeth Cox is Vice President of the Biochemistry Club, and President of Students Against Domestic Violence. She is also an Easton Campaign Scholar, an academic scholarship for students from South Florida (Elizabeth hails from Miami, FL). More recently, she earned the high honor of being named one of five finalists for the President’s Award, which recognizes a graduating senior’s academic accomplishments, involvement in the life of the University, service to others, and exemplification of AMU’s highest Catholic ideals.
Elizabeth’s commitment to her academic life has immediate fruit; she will be attending University of Florida School of Medicine in Fall 2018. “I am humbled to call myself a future physician,” she says.
AMU has helped Elizabeth Cox deepen her spiritual life and has equipped her for a future in medicine.
Reflecting further on her time at Ave Maria University, Elizabeth is grateful for the opportunities she received to integrate her Catholic faith with her studies. “It has helped me grow as a person, and has motivated me to reach for spiritual success,” she shares. But it would be remiss not to include specific mention of the role her professors have played in shaping Elizabeth’s professional aspirations. “I have had an opportunity to conduct research in HIV-1 and Alzheimer’s Disease under their supervision and guidance, and this kindled my interest in scientific inquiry,” Elizabeth states. “Because of the research experience I have had at AMU, I hope to pursue clinical research as a future physician.”
We wish Elizabeth the best of luck as she heads to medical school, and congratulate her on being nominated as a President’s Award finalist!
The cry “I Thirst” from Jesus on the cross is usually associated with intense suffering, and justly so. He was pierced for our offenses and crushed for our sins. But “I Thirst” is also an expression of Jesus’ deep desire for a relationship with us–-quite literally, a thirsting for our love.
Reflections on Jesus’ last words are fitting for Lent, but what about afterwards, in the jubilation of the Resurrection? Can the words of the crucified Lord be applicable to the joyous weeks of the Easter season? The answer is: yes, they can, and the insights of Fr. Robert Conroy (MC) at a recent campus retreat helped AMU students figure out how.
Missionaries of Charity priest Fr. Conroy traveled from his residence in Mexico City to lead AMU students in a retreat on campus in the new Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel. Through talks, guided meditations, a holy hour and confessions, Fr. Conroy offered insights focusing on “I Thirst,” Jesus’ cry for souls from the cross.
“What’s your spiritual blood pressure?” Fr. Conroy challenged students. In other words, Where are your hearts? Are they guarded by Mary, present at the foot of the Cross, willing to suffer with Jesus for souls and to do His Will in all things? Considerations such as these, formed by the theme of the retreat, might seem incompatible with Easter, but Fr. Conroy gave advice on how the suffering of the cross carries us through to the joy of the Easter season.
We need to become spiritually childlike, he explained. Children are cheerful, even in the toughest times. The virtues of purity, humility, and total trust belong to children, and they can belong to us too if we present ourselves to Our Lady, our spiritual mother. She can give us hearts of children, hearts that are spontaneous, trusting, and eager to follow wherever God leads. “Stay with Mary,” Fr. Conroy urged. “Don’t be afraid. Pray the rosary, and she will show you the way!” The key to moving from Good Friday’s sorrow to Easter’s joy lies in Mary, Our Mother, who served the Lord with unabashed trust. She can show us how to “give Jesus the wine to drink of our service” and respond to His thirst for love.
Fr. Conroy, born in 1961 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, is a Missionary of Charity priest who works in both rural and urban areas with native peoples and the homeless, alcoholics, drug addicts, and gang members in prison. His ministry also includes retreat work with priests, religious, and lay people. He has been active for nearly 30 years in over 30 countries. He is currently editing the work of Fr. Joseph Langford, cofounder of the MC Fathers with St. Teresa of Calcutta, for future publication.
Contributed by Dr. Gabriel Martinez, Associate Professor of Business and Economics
The Economics Department of Ave Maria University is sponsoring a lecture series in the Spring of 2018. The speakers in this series are as varied as the topics, all of great current and lasting interest.
The first lecture in the series dealt with the effects of the Great Tax Reform of 2017.
On February 22, Naples attorney Kevin Carmichael and AMU professor Dr. Michael New spoke to a packed Lecture Hall about the recent Tax Reform Plan. Mr. Carmichael, a lawyer and a CPA with Wood, Buckel, and Carmichael, gave a thorough overview of the impact of the 2017 tax reform for individuals and corporations. Mr. Carmichael pointed out that the elimination of the personal exemption, even when combined with the expansion in the standard deduction, had to be compensated by an increase in the child tax credit in order to provide a next tax cut to (most) individuals. He also emphasized the complexity of the tax reform, a reflection of the complexity of the existing code and of the variety of interests that the reform intended to address.
Dr. Michael New focused on the political and electoral aspects of tax reform. Dr. New, Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University, pointed out that there has been decreased Democratic support for GOP tax cuts over the years, with seventy percent of Democrats supporting tax reform in 1986 and no Democrats supporting it in 2017. Dr. New also pointed out two items that did not happen: a flat tax and entitlement reform. Support for a “flat tax,” although high in principle, tends to run into roadblocks as some deductions are very popular. And while entitlement reform may be perceived as a necessity, no one is willing to pay the political price.
Former New York State Supreme Court Justice Visits AMU for the second installment of the Economics Department Lecture Series.
On March 15, Judge Laura Safer Espinoza spoke to a standing-room only crowd about her work with the Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC). The FFSC enforces agreements between growers of tomatoes and other agricultural products, the corporations that buy the tomatoes, and the workers who harvest them. In reaction to horrifying violations of human dignity and basic human rights (many at Ave Maria’s doorstep in the town of Immokalee), the FFSC was formed in 2011 to oversee a unique initiative that consists of (a) supplementing workers’ misery wages with an extra “penny per pound” paid by the corporate buyers into a fund and (b) by a commitment on the part of the growers to abide by a code of conduct that rules out forced labor, child labor, and sexual assault and that improves workers’ health and working conditions.
Judge Safer Espinoza, a former New York State Supreme Court Justice, remarked that while the Florida farms had once been “ground zero for US slavery,” now they are considered to be a model for treatment of workers. The students were moved both by the dramatic change and by the imperative to get involved.
Lessons from 50 years of Social Experiments
On April 5, Dr. Walter Nicholson (Emeritus Professor of Economics at Amherst College and Visiting Professor at Ave Maria University) spoke on various social experiments carried out over the last 50 years and their impact on public policy. Economics is often criticized for not being an “experimental science,” a science in which theoretical propositions can be tested. In his lecture, Dr. Walter Nicholson evaluated how economists have addressed this complaint by conducting experiments “with the goal of testing out major policy proposals” over the last few decades.
Still another lecture remaining this semester!
The Economics department has organized one final talk in April. On Monday, April 16th, guest speaker Dr. Alejandro Cañadas of Mount St. Mary’s University will speak on “The Puzzle of Inequality – a Catholic Perspective.” The lecture will take place in Lecture Hall at 5:00pm. Come out to hear the final lecture in the Economics Department Lecture Series!
Sunday’s Annunciation Feast was celebrated with an abundance of joy by the staff and students at AMU!
What better way to observe Divine Mercy Sunday than to honor Mary’s “yes” to God’s will for her life?
Simple flower arrangements on the tables and lights strung above the academic lawn, set the scene for students and staff to enjoy the beauty of our campus while feasting, visiting, and dancing along to live music. Everyone was treated to a juggling show, music from AMU students, and the festive sounds of Irish-inspired folk music from Scythian.
With the sun going down, music filling the air and a plethora of joyful, smiling students, the trusting “yes” of Mary was beautifully celebrated.
Thanks to the thoughtful efforts of SGA for another successful Annunciation Feast at AMU!
Every year, the AMU Economics Department tests its graduating seniors’ knowledge of economics through a nationally-normed, standardized test, known as the Major Field Test.
This year, our Economics seniors scored better than 84% of the schools that use the Economics MFT (the overall score was at the eighty-fourth percentile). Even better, in the subfield of Macroeconomics, our students averaged at the 91st percentile – our students did better than more than 90% of their peers.
The MFT is produced by the same organization that administers the SAT and that produces the GRE and TOEFL exam. Here are some details: https://www.ets.org/mft/scores/compare_data . Seventy-four other programs used the Economics MFT last year, including some very well-known colleges and universities.
Visit our webpage to learn more about our Economics Program.
Ardens Virtus is one of the four male Faith Households at Ave Maria University. It’s a group of young men committed to praying and sacrificing daily in order to bring the love of Christ to those around them. “The hour has come,” their mission statement proclaims, “and we have decided to go forward into the world as warriors, not to be chided into cowardice, but enlivened and inspired by the spirit to engage sin at its source, pray for those who struggle daily, and bring the love of Christ into day to day life.”
The opportunity to get involved with a Faith Household is one of the major components of the strong campus culture and spiritual life at Ave Maria University. Households are groups of male or female students who mutually support one another by spending time together in prayer and recreation. These Christ-centered groups strive for balanced, healthy, interpersonal relationships, all while challenging their members to develop spiritually, emotionally, academically, and physically.
In the interview below, William Petry gives a glimpse into the brotherhood and spirituality of one of Ave’s male households, Ardens Virtus.
Q: How did you decide to get involved in a household, and why did you choose Ardens Virtus?
A: I decided to get involved with Ardens Virtus last year when another student came to me at the beginning of the year and told me about the concept of households here at Ave, which was totally new to me. He then introduced me to the group of guys that were in Ardens at that time. It seemed to me that households were a conjoined effort of like-minded people who seek a sense of community as well as direction in achieving personal and collective goals for their lives, which was something that I wanted to be a part of.
Q: What are some of the things that you guys do to build community? What kind of commitments do you have to the household?
A: Ardens does many things to build community among each other and on campus, from social moments to communal prayer times. Personally, I think that Ardens’ ITT (intentional talk time) is one of the most valuable community building techniques. Each week, we have a one-to-one conversation with one of the members of the household. It can be as casual or formal as you please, as long as it is an earnest heart-to-heart conversation. These weekly conversations have been incredibly helpful for me, and I’ve been able to get to know the other members of Ardens as well. The household has various commitments, as others do, from weekly Mass, to night prayer a couple times a week, and a weekly meeting. There are plenty of other opportunities as well to nourish prayer life and establish community.
Q: What is unique about being in a household at Ave?
A: It seems to me that households at Ave are a great opportunity for students to exercise a deeper level of introspection, discern their spiritual, social and emotional needs and find a particular means of fulfilling them based on their personal history and spirituality.
Q: Is your household in charge of putting on any events during the school year?
A: Ardens organizes a couple events on campus, such as competitive inter-household dodgeball games, apologetic debates, etc. There are many creative ideas that spark from our leadership team to engage with campus life.
Q: If I’m a male student interested in getting involved with Ardens, how would I join?
A: If you are interested in joining the household, I encourage you to join one of our events, such as night prayer, and get to know its members and mission to see if it is a right fit for you!
Interested in learning more about Household Life at Ave Maria University? Check out the missions and charisms of the different female and male households here!
Junior Cecilia Berry is just one of the many students soaking in the opportunities that Ave Maria University affords to grow and excel spiritually, academically, and socially during the college years. Hailing from Denver, Colorado, Cecilia was drawn to go to college halfway across the country because, when she visited AMU, she found something worth staying for.
“I came to Ave because when I visited, I immediately fell in love with every aspect of the school–the faith life, the social aspect, and the academics,” Cecilia shares. “Being pretty close to the beach doesn’t hurt either!”
When asked about her experience at AMU so far, and how she feels prepared for the future, Cecilia responds:
“First of all, I love the friends that I’ve made here, and I know that my friendships will last a lifetime, which is such a blessing. What I’ve learned from my classes is a different kind of blessing. I’m a Catholic Studies major with an Education minor, and my experience with student teaching combined with a solid theological background gives me the confidence I’ll need pursuing a teaching job in a Catholic elementary school or high school someday.”
Cecilia is spending this semester studying abroad with the Rome Program. She is excited about using this opportunity to continue pushing her limits and growing as a person. “Another important thing I’ve learned from Ave is how to go outside my comfort zone, since I’m so far away from home,” Cecilia explains. “I’m acting on that by spending this semester in Rome!” Going on, she says: “While I’m here, first and foremost, I really want to deepen my faith life. I also hope to make new friends and try new things (like authentic gelato), take different classes, and experience a new culture!”
Ave Maria University offers opportunities to study abroad in Ireland and Rome. Like Cecilia, many AMU students find these experiences abroad life-changing; they come away transformed by the encounter with a new culture, their horizons are broadened, and their AMU education is marked by a new dimension of understanding. But the chance to study in another country with one of AMU’s programs is only one among many ways in which students are challenged academically, spiritually, and socially. Find out more about the vibrant student culture, strong Academics, and faithful spiritual life at Ave Maria University!
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of our SAB and SGA, the annual Battle of the Bands competition was extra festive! Sunset on the canal, live music, themed food, a selection of drinks, and Saint Patrick’s Day all made for an evening to remember.
The crowd gathered to sing along, enjoy the food and drinks and find out which of the four student-bands would be named this year’s winner by the panel of AMU Staff judges. Using a point system of scoring, the judges listened to each song and gauged the audience’s responses.
Four bands playing four songs each made for a diverse and eclectic evening of fantastic music. This year’s bands and their set lists were:
Tom Monaband, this year’s Runner Up:
Whose members are –
Daniel Zoumaya, Nicholas Cummins, Aaron Ockenfels, Casey Knox, Joe Schoenle, and Sean Hanley.
1. Joker & the Thief by Wolfmother
2. Wanted Dead or Alive by Bon Jovi
3. Don’t stop Believing by Journey
4. (Encore) Long time by Boston
Whose members are –
Francesco D’Agostino, Michael Davy, Daniel Zoumaya, Nick Cummons, and Joseph Blaso.
1. You Know It – Colony House
2. Am I Pretty – The Maine
3. Talk Too Much – COIN
4. All the Small Things – Blink 182
The Black Velvet Band:
Whose members are –
Jacob Kessler, Gabe Kessler, Luke Johanni, Luke Bisceglio, Michel Shahid, and Zack Johanni
1. Rocky Road To Dublin
2. Galway Girl
3. Star of The County Down
4. Rorin Mary
And last, but certainly not least, taking the crowd by storm and being awarded as this year’s WINNING BAND,
Who’s members are –
Jon Babineau, Joe Free, Jon Larochelle, Carter Chell, Michaela Flynn
1. Do You Wanna Do Nothing With Me – Lawrence
2. Are You Gonna Be My Girl – Jet
3. The Wolf – Mumford and Sons
4. Mama’s Broken Heart – Miranda Lambert
Thanks to all of these great musicians for coming out to entertain us for another year of the Battle of the Bands competition!